Doctor suspended for over-prescribing sleeping pill

SINGAPORE - A doctor has been handed a four-month suspension by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) for inappropriately prescribing sedative medication to a patient for more than seven years.

After a disciplinary inquiry, the SMC found that Dr Ng Teck Keng from Sunshine Clinic in Tampines Street 42 had over-prescribed Dormicum, a high-dependency drug, to his patient for sleep-related issues from March 2005 to July 2012.

It had resulted in the male patient being warded in the Intensive Care Unit at a hospital for an overdose.

In its grounds of decision on the case that was made public on Friday, the SMC said it was "taken aback" that Dr Ng had prescribed his patient 80 tablets of the drug over eight occasions in a five month period in 2012.

The drugs were prescribed inspite of the fact that the patient's father had wrote a letter to Dr Ng in March 2011, requesting that he refrain from prescribing his son the drug as he was addicted to it.

Dormicum is part of the benzodiazepine family and is typically prescribed to ease insomnia or anxiety attacks.

In his mitigation plea, Dr Ng said his clinic was not doing well financially and that a suspension would impact its operations adversely.

He also added that he was not driven by financial gain but had wanted to provide compassionate care for the patient - which clouded his clinical judgement.

In deciding the penalty, the SMC noted that Dr Ng had elected to plead guilty to the charge at an early stage of the proceedings and that he was remorseful for his actions.

It decided not to impose a fine on Dr Ng, but noted that the minimum three-month suspension would not adequately address the seriousness of the case.

"This is not only an over-prescription for an extremely long period of time, it is also a case of mismanagement of the patient," said the SMC.